Tesla Experiments With Giving Out Free Cars, Exclusive Models, And Discounts For Referrals


Here’s a curious bit of news out of Tesla this afternoon: they’re experimenting with a customer referral program. A few people — emphasis on few — are going to get Tesla’s new Model X SUV for free; others will get $1,000 bucks off for buying a Tesla based on word-of-mouth from existing owners.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk just sent out an email to Model S owners breaking it all down, but here’s the gist of it:

  • Current Model S owners will get a link which they can share with would-be Model S owners. If anyone buys a car through that link, they get $1,000 bucks off the purchase price; the referrer, meanwhile, gets $1,000 bucks in credit toward a new Tesla, accessories, or service center visits
  • Anyone who makes five referral orders will get invited to the grand opening party for Tesla’s new Gigafactory — the battery factory they’re building in Nevada.
  • Anyone who makes ten referral orders will get “the right to purchase” a special edition of Tesla’s upcoming Model X SUV at the price of the standard base model. Elon calls this the “Founder Series” Model X, and notes that it’s otherwise not something you can buy “at any price”. What’s actually special about that model? It primarily comes down to badging and knowing you’ve got one of the first ~50 or so off the line — but Elon says they’ll do just about any customization you want.
  • The first person to hit ten referrals in each North America, Europe, and Asia gets a free Model X SUV.

So, the big catch: you have to be an existing Tesla owner to really get a shot at the goods — not just a Tesla fan with a particular wealthy network of friends.

Why do this? Tesla says they’ve found that it costs them around $2,000 to sell a car through one of their stores — so with this, they want to see if they can make that sale without requiring them to keep opening new locations. “If we can amplify word of mouth” writes Elon, “then we don’t need to open quite as many new stores in the future.”

It also theoretically helps them increase sales in the many states that have banned car companies from selling directly to buyers, instead requiring them to sell through third party dealerships or online.

Explicitly noting that the program is an “experiment”, Musk says this first test run will end on Oct. 31st. “I have no idea if this will work or not,” says Elon. “If it works out, that’s great. If not, we’ll say ‘that was a great experiment’ and move on.”

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